One Campus, Many Experiences
The University of Lethbridge’s main campus is often described as a commuter campus with low student engagement in student life and significant attrition between 1st and 2nd year. On the other hand, students living in residence appear to be more fully engaged and experience a much lower attrition rate because these students create their own social environments, learning communities, and are more aware of learning support services that are available to them.
Most FNMI students are Blackfoot-speaking and from the communities surrounding the University of Lethbridge. About 75% of FNMI students adapt well to the academic demands of university. Others have challenging needs and require learning support services, health services, and access to housing.
A smudging room and a Native American Students’ Association lounge are located in University Hall. Markin Hall has a round meeting room used by faculty and the Management / Health Sciences FNMI focus groups. Each faculty has distinct FNMI support programs which complement broad University support for FNMI and are separate from the department of North American Studies.
What is required in addition to this current level of support is a gathering centre that can be a recognizable symbol on campus for Blackfoot heritage and an acknowledgement of where the campus is located – on traditional Blackfoot land. The centre is intended to be a part of each student’s experience on campus. The University is seeking funding to build this First Nations Gathering Centre (listed as the second priority in the Capital Plan).
International students come to the University of Lethbridge from over 80 countries. They require a broad range of support services to transition to Canada and are more likely to use health/counselling and learning support services. They also require on-campus housing to a greater degree than the general student population.
Graduate students at the University tend to develop localised networks which coalesce around the particular labs or research centres they are associated with. This is a normal occurrence, but a need was expressed to create opportunities for inter-disciplinary interaction away from research areas, for example, in a graduate/faculty club. A formal ‘defense’ room was also suggested as an expression of institutional support for graduate programs.
The most pressing issue for graduate students however as their numbers grow is to ensure sufficient work space. The University of Lethbridge currently allocates 8 square meters per graduate student for desk and research space. The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) recommends 4 square meters for desk space (lab/research space excluded): this is the standard used by other Alberta universities and Canadian jurisdictions and may be useful for the University of Lethbridge to apply.